Halloween stampede in Seoul leaves 149 dead, dozens injured

PHOTO: Halloween stampede in Korea kills at least 149 people. (via Twitter janelles_story)

Pandemonium struck a Halloween event in Korea’s capital city of Seoul with at least 149 people killed in a stampede. Dozens more were injured in the Itaewon district as reports estimate as many as 100,000 people came out last night for a giant Halloween celebration. Crowds quickly overfilled the narrow alleyways that snake through the district and the congestion began to crush and suffocate those who intended to come out for some holiday fun.

Two foreigners so far have been identified in the 149 confirmed dead in the Halloween stampede. Another 150 people were estimated to have been injured, according to the Ministry of Interior this morning. Officials warn that, as rescue teams and emergency workers continue to sort through the aftermath of the event, those numbers may increase.

The area had been popular for celebrating Halloween before the Covid-19 pandemic and this was the first year the full celebration was back. People, many decked out in Halloween costumes, began to fill up all the bars and cafes along the narrow streets of Itaewon before things descended into a stampede.

The crowd was happy and calm, celebrating as they do each year, perhaps a bit more to make up for lost time during the pandemic. When a commotion broke out in one area, people began to push and move and things spiralled out of control quickly. A Twitter user posted video footage where you could hear people begin shouting and becoming worried about the impending crush, shouting “Oh my god, oh my god!”

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As the Halloween crowds grew to unreasonable sizes, people ran out of places to stand and began pushing and piling on top of each other, triggering the stampede. The crowd was so dense that emergency workers and paramedics could not get through to help anyone and were asking people nearby to each victim to administer first aid.

Eyewitnesses described bodies piling up with those who had already died mixed with people who were overwhelmed and losing consciousness on their way to death. Photos of the aftermath of the Halloween stampede show lines of bodies covered with sheets as ambulances are loaded by emergency workers in orange vests. A doctor early on the scene describes giving CPR to two victims before the number of injured swelled so quickly that rescue workers could not keep up.

“It’s hard to put in words to describe. So many victims’ faces were pale. I could not catch their pulse or breath and many of them had a bloody nose. When I tried CPR, I also pumped blood out of their mouths.”

Bodies were transported temporarily to a local gym near the Halloween stampede as well as local hospitals where they began to identify the victims. Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol gave orders for rescue teams to run ahead to hospitals in the area to secure beds for incoming victims.

US President Joe Biden issued a statement grieving and standing by Korea and wishing a quick recovery to those injured. The mayor of Seoul cut short a European visit to return home to deal with the tragedy, according to the Bangkok Post.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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